April 24th, 2012
04:51 PM ET

Five things we learned from Joel Osteen's visit

By Eric Marrapodi and Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - Joel Osteen, the pastor of America’s largest church, swung by the offices of CNN's Belief Blog on Tuesday. He’s in town for a "Night of Hope" event at Nationals Park baseball stadium this weekend, which is expected to draw thousands of worshipers who wouldn't otherwise step foot in a church.

Before taking batting practice with the Washington Nationals and delivering the opening prayer in Congress, Osteen sat down for a freewheeling interview with us. Five things we learned from his visit:

1. Osteen's optimism is unflappable

No matter how negative the outlook may be regarding religion, the economy or politics, Osteen sees the good.

Churches in America may be bleeding members but, Osteen’s own church – and those of his megapastor friends – are growing. "Sometimes what works 40 years ago doesn’t work today," he said, explaining how he built a church with 40,000 regular attendees in Houston, Texas.

"The denominations aren't as big of a deal so they may not look for a church that just says the First Church for Baptists or Methodists or Catholics,” he said. “They look for place where people are believers of a like minded faith. And so I see those types of churches growing and that's the type of church our is."

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Osteen has grown his church from a congregation of 7,000 since taking over for his dad in 1999.

“I’m biased,” when it comes to Christianity’s growth prospects,” Osteen said. “You know we’re coming from a stadium here and I’m thinking how’s this young guy from DC going to have 50,000 people - whatever that stadium holds - and I see it everywhere we go it seems like more than ever we see people hungry for their faith.

2. He hates weighing in on politics but will– sometimes

Osteen said he thinks politics "divides people" but was careful to add that "some pastors are very much called to be in politics like I’m called not to, so I like to celebrate what they’re doing."

The issue of religious liberty has been a hot one recently, especially over a pending White House mandate that free birth control be offered to employees at certain religious institutions. While many conservative pastors called the mandate a threat to religious liberty, Osteen said that it’s "not my personality to call something a threat but I would agree with what their argument, the basis of it, that we don’t want government telling us what we can, something that goes against our faith."

He added that he stands with Catholics and other Christians who opposed the government mandate, though it’s not completely clear if he’s satisfied by a White House adjustment to the rule that mollified some Catholics, if not the Catholic Church.

"I would hate to think of the day," Osteen said, "where someone would come and tell me you have to minister on this and it goes against what the scripture says."

3. Osteen sees Mormons as fellow Christians

"When I hear Mitt Romney say that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that he's the Christ, raised from the dead, that he's his savior - that's good enough for me," Osteen said in an interview that aired on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

While Osteen said Mormonism is "not traditional Christianity," he believes Mormons fall under the Christian tent.

"Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ," the pastor argued. That goes a big step further than many other Christian leaders, who have not gone so far to say that Romney is unquestionably Christian.

Osteen also told Blitzer that he believes President Barack Obama is a committed Christian. Some conservative Christian leaders have questioned the president’s religion.

4. The point of Osteen’s TV broadcast is inspiring people and getting them to church

Osteen is often criticized for preaching a watered-down version of Christianity that is light on sin and heavy on feeling good. He said the goal of his TV ministry, which reaches 10 million Americans a week and costs about $20 million dollars a year, is to help get people into churches.

"I’m trying to throw a big broad net to try to get people interested in God and believe that he’s for them and has a purpose,” he said. “Maybe someone that would never be interested before but then at the end of each broadcast I encourage them to get in a good Bible-based church so you can grow.”

"I see our ministry as an extension of the church, the local church,” he said. “I realize in a 30-minute broadcast you can’t do all that. I’m trying to be really broad."
Osteen added that the TV broadcast partners with 500 local churches to help transition people from TV to church.

5. Serving communion to 40,000 people is tricky

Answering a question from an @CNNBelief Twitter follower, Osteen said Lakewood Church celebrates communion once a month, even though TV viewers don’t see it.
"There’s pros and cons of a big church,” he said. “Cons is I don’t get to know everybody, I don’t get to go to their ballgame, I don’t get to marry everybody, but the pros are you get all this community, 800 ushers come in to serve, getting there at 7 in the morning on their day off and coming in on Saturday to make all those wafers.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (1,154 Responses)
  1. John

    "While Osteen said Mormonism is "not traditional Christianity," he believes Mormons fall under the Christian tent."

    So believing that any man can ascend to "godhood" and populate "his own" planet with "spirit babies" falls under the Christian tent?

    May 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Wingrider

      As is always the case, your belief in God is your faith, when religion is added it becomes politics.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Mom

      He never talked about the Mormons in the interview. Did someone add that in?

      May 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  2. jasoncdanforth

    As an Atheist, I like Osteen. He's big on the positivism and the optimism without getting bogged down by the negativity in Christianity. I love how Christianity teaches a way of life that leads to that positivist view where the fire and brimstone fear can bring about the same result. I completely disagree with his view on reality, but he sounds like a person it would be easy hug and pat on the back for being a decent person. Yeah, that's my measurement. If I feel like I can hug you sincerely, you must be doing something right.

    May 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  3. steve

    the money machine is cranked into high gear it seems, the sheep are unloading their pockets for the mythical believers. party on joel!!!!

    May 3, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  4. Jane

    I enjoy Joel every Sunday, he helps me be more positive during life's difficult times. He is not the only speaker who has helped me. To each his own. Peace, everyone.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  5. Rocky

    The five things I learned from Osteen is 1) fraud 2) fraud 3) fraud 4) fraud 5) fraud.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • SoM

      The one and only thing I have learned of you is 1, accuser!!!

      May 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • vasi

      I was very down and confused, full of debts, alone, almost want to live this earth and 4 messages of Joel has changed my life, and walk now in faith, love, with the Lord, as never before in 40 years. "Pray bold prayers" by Osteen was o word from God for me...I'm truly blessed...THIS IS HIS GIFT. TO LIFT OUR FAITH AND HAVE FAITH IN RESTORATION...IF HE PREACH AND TEACH THIS, IS HIS CALLING AND YOU TEACH FROM REVELATION OR OTHER THINGS IT IS YOUR CALLING. LET THE MAN BE WHO GOD TOLD HIM TO BE, AND BE YOURSELF WANT YOU HAVE TO BE IN GOD'S PLAN.
      Shalom from Romania.

      May 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • vasi

      I was very down and confused, full of debts, alone, almost want to live this earth and 4 messages of Joel has changed my life, and walk now in faith, love, with the Lord, as never before in 40 years. "Pray bold prayers" by Osteen was a word from God for me...I'm truly blessed...THIS IS HIS GIFT. TO LIFT OUR FAITH AND HAVE FAITH IN RESTORATION...IF HE PREACH AND TEACH THIS, IS HIS CALLING AND YOU TEACH FROM REVELATION OR OTHER THINGS IT IS YOUR CALLING. LET THE MAN BE WHO GOD TOLD HIM TO BE, AND BE YOURSELF WANT YOU HAVE TO BE IN GOD'S PLAN.
      Shalom from Romania.

      May 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  6. calvin

    Very Interesting-Mr Olsteen skirts around the truth. Never really committing himself to full answers. And now he states Mormons and Christians are the same. Really!!! He skirts around the word of God with pretty eloquent speeches. Also he preaches prosperity if the wealth form God wants us to be prosperous in the Spiritual realm. Seeking heavenly promises of things to come. Not things of the earth. Also I hear nothing of what a person must do to be saved, As the question was asked to Peter, Acts 2:38-Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins And you shall receive the Gift of the Holy GhOST. The Holy Ghost is what helps a person to live above sin. It also guides us into all truths. Not watered down-amke me feel good untruths. God Help Mr Olsteen, the Creflo Dollars, Joyce Myers, TD Jakes, Eddie Long's who have many following man and not God. Having a form of Godliness doesn't cut-it. God is a Holy God and will not be MOCKED. I pray that God will help all these before-mentioned leaders to know and speak TRUTH. In JESUS NAME

    May 3, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Steven

      What denomination do you belong to?

      May 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      god will certainly be mocked

      May 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  7. D V

    I am baffled. Why do the atheists read a post related to a Christian pastor, if Christianity is all that they are against??
    Most of the comments on Christian posts/articles are from non-believers.
    Agree that it's personal choice to believe or not, but attacking believers or their belief is simply not acceptable.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • Not enough

      I think that they are the one obsessed with Christianity more than Christians.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • sam stone

      Because it is entertaining, DV

      May 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  8. CJ

    Funny how Joel Osteen does not preach Christianity; he preaches a prosperity gospel. One would be hard pressed to hear the word "Christ" in one of his "sermons". He has no formal theological training.

    May 2, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Jimmy

      Isn't that the point he is trying to make... He wants you to do the leg work and figure out about Christ for yourself... If you want fire and brimstone Christ messages spoken down to you, those preachers area a dime a dozen...

      May 3, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Timi

      How many theological trainings did the 12 apostles get? And are those with these trainings not spitting jargons too? Let whoever is called of God carry out his assignment. There is no mention of a seminary in the bible.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Not enough

      The problem is that with his preaching is that folks who are struggling through sin, will not be convicted from sin. Folks will just simply stay home and follow his positive message and may not go any further in faith.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Victorious

      Osteen is just a motivational speaker. If our sin problem and the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is not preached, that's not the gospel.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. Julie Pierce

    (1) There are approximately 600,000 pastors and retired pastors in the U.S. Less than 1% make the kind of money you're talking about. So, why do you condemn ALL pastors and all faiths? To be fair, you should also look at Rick Warren who gives away 90% of his book profits to help others and keeps 10% for himself.

    (2) Simply because someone quotes the bible doesn't mean he/she is "holier-than you." It simply means the person believes the bible is holy.


    May 2, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  10. vjpgh

    Funny how all of these big time 'religious' leaders are wealthy beyond belief. That does not
    sit well with me.........they should be living a humble lifestyle, like 'Jesus' did...........so I hear.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  11. atomD21

    I would argue that a pastor that makes millions and proceeds to live like it rather than use that wealth to help the world is missing the point entirely.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • RR

      I agree. jesus said that we have to by humble and reather be content with what we have. He should give mostly everything to the poors.a server of God should not leave in lexuries.Those are the wolfs with a mask of a sheep.

      May 2, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  12. Ian

    A big scam. It's one thing to believe in the supernatural but quite another thing to tell others to believe in the supernatural and that they will be better for it. Prayer can be dangerous not only for the people who rely on it to fix real life problems but also because terrorists are praying for our deaths just like we are prying for theirs. If prayer worked we'd all be dead!

    May 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • atomD21

      That presumes that prayer always means a yes answer. That's a dangerous thing being promoted in religion right now. God isn't a kindly grandfather or Santa Claus just waiting for us to ask nicely for our new toy. Religion has done a great disservice to those in its membership by preaching a version of God that basically paints a picture of someone just waiting to reward you with all your wants and desires just by being "holy enough." It creates a superiority complex among the well to do and a guilt trip for those that struggle financially, as they must just not be good enough to garner the favor of God. It's nothing but destructive and wrong.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  13. Jim

    One thing I learned from Osteen is that Jesus is BIG business!

    May 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • DAVE


      May 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  14. RGOne

    Jesus never let me down
    You know Jesus used to show me the score.
    Then they put Jesus in show business
    Now it's hard to get in the door


    May 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
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    May 2, 2012 at 10:13 am |
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    May 2, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  17. Taino1917

    He who believes in theTRINITY does not know Jehovah our Almighty God the father of our Teacher Jesus Christ.
    He who follow the Trinity has no knowledge of what he does.
    Our Almighty Jehovah is clear in all Holy Bibles that HE is the only Father and no ones equal.
    Read the Bible and know it yourself AMEN

    May 2, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • EDJ

      God doesn't ask us to DEFEND Him (with holier-than-thou scripture quotes or other forms of attack). God only asks that we FOLLOW Him. What difference does it make the type of "gait" we Christians use to do that? You walk your way; I will walk mine. It ain't a contest; live and let live.

      May 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • tina

      Just go away you and your cult!

      May 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  18. Taino1917


    May 2, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  19. John Tighe

    Yeah, I thought that the Schuller guy with the crystal cathedral was nice until I noticed that all of his guests were pushing a book. I then realized that what I was seeing wasn't a sermon, but a talk show. I wonder how much his guests paid to get their book mentioned on his show.

    May 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      just another product to be sold

      May 2, 2012 at 4:25 am |
  20. John Tighe

    Osteen and his ilk are only after money and adulation. It's sad that there are people that will follow these types.

    May 1, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.